INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
President DeFleur accepts recommendation to discontinue wrestling
By : Anita Knopp Doll
For an update on the reinstatement of wrestling click here
President Lois B. DeFleur has accepted a recommendation to discontinue the University's intercollegiate wrestling program in spring 2004, at the end of the current season.
The recommendation was made by Joel Thirer, director of health, physical education and athletics, in August as a way to accommodate a 5 percent reduction in operating funds for athletics while maintaining the integrity of the overall sports program. The campus will save $160,000 to $180,000 a year in operating costs, overhead and scholarships by discontinuing the program, according to Thirer's projections.
The University will honor its commitment to the wrestling program through this year and help the coaches and athletes plan for their future. DeFleur has asked the athletic program to begin working with student athletes on the wrestling team immediately to assist them in transferring to other schools or enable them to remain at Binghamton to complete their education.
DeFleur took the action after considering the views of students, alumni, coaches, parents and others who have met with her or submitted letters. "I have carefully weighed their concerns, as well as the challenges facing the University in evaluating this recommendation," DeFleur wrote in her decision. "I appreciate the passion of those who advocated for the wrestling program.
"Wrestling has a history of success and achievements at Binghamton. We have alumni who remember their wrestling years fondly. On the balancing side, we have considerable budget challenges and a mission to deliver the very best education for students."
In making her decision, DeFleur said she considered a fundraising proposal drafted by several members of the Committee to Save Binghamton University Wrestling that called for $1,000 gifts from 100 alumni donors to support the program.
"In the interest of fairness, I engaged a fundraising consultant to study the feasibility of their plan," she wrote. "While well intentioned, this plan falls considerably short in a very critical dimension -- we simply do not have a sufficient base of wrestling alumni to raise the substantial funds that would be needed to sustain the program, even for the near term."
DeFleur noted that Binghamton is not alone in making difficult decisions about cutting programs in these economic times.
"Last year the University implemented two budget reductions, as well as another one this fall" she wrote. "We probably will have more. The campus has set funding priorities that first and foremost protect our academic and research missions."
She said that other schools, including SUNY schools, have cut athletic programs. At New Paltz, seven sports have been cut; four at Plattsburgh and the University of Albany has cut six programs. Reductions have also occurred at other public institutions like the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the universities of Tennessee and West Virginia.
"These are not easy choices," DeFleur said. "In each case there are athletes, coaches, parents and alumni who have contributed their commitment and hard work to the success of a sport they love."
But DeFleur said she agreed with Thirer's view that the campus would be best served by discontinuing wrestling rather than imposing larger across-the-board cuts that could harm the overall competitiveness of developing the University's Division I program. She said the University's commitment to the America East conference was important in setting priorities. Wrestling is the only sport currently not included in the conference.